Where Are Tablets In Enterprise Mobility?

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The scope of mobile transformation has a wide view and, quite frankly, decided upon by what works best for each enterprise. Digging deeper, individual lines of business also determine what type of mobility works best for them – both from a device standpoint as well as an operating system and application aspect.

In 2018, enterprise mobility has a clear device front-runner: the smartphone. While it may not be utilized for as much business-critical work as, say, a laptop, we know the majority of employees in the workforce owns one and can, at the very least, access email from that device.

Breaking down the types of mobile devices available on the market, there are four main categories: smartphones, laptops, tablets, and wearables. Strangely, one of those – the tablet – has found an odd middle ground with limited adoption and somewhat of an identity crisis to boot. It’s not as powerful as a laptop, and can accompany more work-related functions than a smartphone but can’t make calls (which are still vital in business, believe it or not).

So where are the tablets in enterprise mobility, and why are they having such a tough time proliferating the space?

As previously reported by Enterprise Mobility Exchange, the market value of the tablet industry is expected to see steady growth in the next few years, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 9% until 2021. While that’s steady, a sharp contrast in the wearables market shows a CAGR of 25% now through 2022 – a massive difference between the two devices.

See related: 1 Factor Is Determing Tablet Use In The Enterprise

“If you’re going to lug something that big you want a keyboard because the bulk of enterprise apps are still PC-based,” said Mark Clancy, Founder of Cyber Risk Research. “When you add a keyboard to a tablet you learn that laptops are just better. Since almost no enterprise apps use touch, either mouse or keyboard is still the HMI. The only ‘successful’ tablet enterprise app I have seen is board meeting book applications, but that is a small audience relative to the scale of the enterprise.”

Of course, more technology equates to more cost, which must result in some proof of value for budget holders.

“(It’s) the cost of the tablets that can be cost prohibitive,” said Divyang Bhatt, IT Director, Mobile Application Development for IQVIA.

That sentiment was echoed by Justin Lake, Principal with Vernado Technologies.

“I believe the reason for lower adoption of tablets (and wearables) is concern about the enterprise paying for a third or fourth device with incremental perceived value,” he said.

Beyond cost and functionality, however, comes two major components that make the difference in tablet use: security and application potential. Both seem to be sticking points for adopters.

See related: Who's In Charge Of The Mobile App Lifecycle?

“I’m of the mind that soon, it will not matter what screen you use to do your work,” said Jim Floyd, Director of Global Mobility Services at AIG. “However, the majority of apps are PC based and not ‘modernized’ enough yet to work across the mobile / PC / VDI spectrum. So, we’re stuck with apps holding us back from that scenario (and many are business-owned and possibly not funded or interested enough to make this a priority). If MAM is introduced, and is determined as the strategic ‘road’ for all apps to ‘drive’ on, then there is incentive.”

Security just hasn’t caught up to the needs, either, according to Matrix Medical Network CISO Rebecca Wynn.

“(Tablets) are wanted, but finding a good affordable MDM solution that has kiosk capabilities and plays nicely with developed applications is a challenge,” she said. “Security vendors are lagging behind the forward-thinking custom code.”

Of course, not everyone is against taking the leap into the tablet world.

“In our enterprise, we do not have many phones and no wearables, but we have 30,000+ tablets,” said Chris Grubbs, Senior Project Manager at Southwest Airlines. “In the airline industry pilots need a tablet to see charts and manuals. Flight attendants need a tablet for manuals. Technical operation engineers need tablets for aircraft manuals. Ground operations have multiple use cases for tablets and handhelds, but not phones.”

Mobile transformation is not industry-specific, but how enterprise mobility is applied certainly is contingent on the wants and needs of particular companies and their individual lines of business. Will tablets ever truly “arrive” in the enterprise mobility space the way smartphones have? Will they supplant the laptop completely at some point? As of now, tablets are perceived as accessory rather than necessity, but remember, just a decade ago, cell phones were only being used to make calls.